The nine mobile medical units received a few months ago under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) from the MPLAD fund of the then Hoshiarpur MP and former union minister of state for health and family welfare Santosh Chowdhary remain underutilised for lack of funds and dedicated staff.
The vehicles, one in each assembly segment of the Lok Sabha constituency, had to be run in identified underserved villages as per the fixed schedule but that is not the case.
The main purpose to introduce these mobile medical units was to provide diagnostic facilities to people living in remote areas, besides delivering regular curative and family health services but shortage of medical officers and laboratory technicians is coming in the way of this.
As per the plan, each vehicle should have two medical officers comprising a female doctor, one radiographer, one lab technician, a nurse, a pharmacist, two helpers and three drivers.
Generic drugs are being supplied from the main NRHM budget, while no funds have been received for other operational charges so far, which roughly add up to Rs 50,000 per month. Whenever a van is dispatched to a particular block, the senior medical officer has to arrange the medical and paramedical staff.
On the days regular staff from a health centre is attached with a mobile unit, health services of that particular centre suffer. The mobile vans are air-conditioned and equipped with all essential facilities.
Specialised services like X-ray, electro cardiogram (ECG) and ultrasound are also available but these cannot be put to use without expert staff.
Santosh Chowdhary said the NRHM officials had released an instalment of Rs 53.35 lakh for the first quarter in January as per the requirement projected by the Punjab government.
"We provided vehicles, which cost around Rs 1.5 crore to bring health care facilities to the people's doorsteps, but operating them in a proper manner is the state government's responsibility. It should recruit adequate staff and release necessary funds to the district authorities," she said.
Chowdhary said she had written a demi-official (DO) letter to chief minister Parkash Singh Badal seeking his support for running these mobile medical units effectively but he did not respond.When contacted, NRHM state director Hussan Lal said medical staff, especially dedicated to mobile medical units could not be provided so far.
"Drugs and other staff is no problem as these are being maintained from the NRHM pool but we do have shortage of laboratory technicians," said Lal.